Collage of PfAL alumni

Alumni experience

What to do after grad school

Words of wisdom from an LSE student with nearly 40 years of professional experience.
By PfAL alumni Innocent Anguyo

Don’t be in a rush and make sure you understand what it is about your potential employer’s culture and values, which works for you

Andrew Palmer

Congratulations on completing graduate school! A whole year — of misinterpreting arguments, skipped meals, significant stress over assignments and exams, intermittent all-nighters, in the pub for some and in the library for others — has come to an end. Grad school has been a steep learning curve, and a time when your life really changed.

You can now proudly say you went to LSE! You have earned your place at the table of alumni, which includes the names of some of the most transformational leaders such as Kwame Nkrumah, Obafemi Awolowo, Mwai Kibaki, Jomo Kenyatta, Lee Kuan Yew, John F. Kennedy, Ursula von der Leyen, Mick Jagger, George Soros, David Rockefeller, David Attenborough, Val Venis, Edith Abbott, Janet Napolitano, Kurt Kreuger and Juan Manuel Santos…

Consider this a mere listing, not a ranking! Nonetheless, there is a rich list of role models to pick from, in case you’re still looking for inspiration for what to do.

Going forward, some of you will already be sprinting away with a career instantly out of LSE, while others will take slightly more time to land a job. This article is aimed at the latter category, the marathoners.

For some there is the realisation that you may need to adapt to a life that no longer aligns with your passions: at LSE you had the liberty to shape your life around your interests, be it selecting courses or attending public events. The real world does not work that way! (But it gets better below… honest!) In fact, after several months without a job, you could easily jump at an offer that is far from your interests. Time zones will scupper your efforts to keep up with friends and, sadly, many friendships may be challenged. To be sure, your LSE relationships may not be the only ones that change! With your old mates, family, partner/s and acquaintances back home, well accustomed to a year-long life without you and your bad jokes around, you might need to rekindle old flames.

But it does not always have to be this way! Today I bring you words of wisdom from someone who has overcome these post-university challenges to become one of the most sought after experts in his field. He has nearly 40 years of professional experience straddling several trades and countries. He has worked in one of the Big Four accounting firms for 37 years. As the head of one of the units of the firm, he helped to increase their revenue from £25m to almost £100m within five years. But most importantly, he is one of you. He has shared your lectures and seminars.

Meet Andrew Palmer of MSc in African Development. Andrew is Price Waterhouse Cooper’s EMEA Forensic Services Leader. As proudly stated online, “Andrew is a Partner at PwC UK and has specialised in forensic services since 1992. He led the UK practice from 2006 to 2012. During 2012 he was appointed as the Risk & Quality Leader of the UK Firm and continues as the EMEA Leader of the Forensic Services practice. He has advised clients in Europe, the Middle East, Asia and North America, both defendants and plaintiffs, on potential claims, litigation strategy and settlement and has given expert evidence (written and oral) on many occasions.”

On these experiences Andrew had a chat with former LSE International Development Department Media Ambassador, and PfAL alumnus, Innocent Anguyo:

Tell me about your professional and academic journey. What have been the highlights?

Going to university at all was a big deal in 1970s Britain, and I was the first person from my extended family to have gone to university. Getting a place at Cambridge made it all the more special. The highlight of my professional career was undoubtedly standing on stage at Alton Towers Resort (an amusement park in Staffordshire, England) in September 2011, in front of a very successful team of 500 people who I had led for five years. It was a conference for PwC’s UK Forensic Services team which I’d been head of since July 2006. When I took on the leadership role the team had revenues of £25m and 140 staff. By 2011 this had grown to almost £100m with 500 staff. The conference was a celebration of what we had achieved.

You have had a great career, so what’s the secret behind your success?

I didn’t have a plan in 1980, when I left Cambridge, and I certainly wasn’t expecting to be working with the same firm almost forty years later. But I was lucky — after a bumpy start I started to fit in. The culture of the place suited me and, wherever I moved within the vast PwC organisation, I always found people I got along with. But above all, a firm like PwC allows you to try new things and to work out what you enjoy doing.

Like most people, I was successful doing the sort of work that I was good at and enjoyed — the lucky break is having the latitude to find out what that is.

Why are you making a career change right now?

I’m not here [at LSE] in pursuit of a career change. I’m done with careers but I think I’ve still got something to offer — 37 years in a wide variety of roles and in different parts of the world equips you to have a go at most things. I’m hoping that what I learn about African Development will enhance that professional experience and allow me to do something worthwhile in the development world — I don’t know what yet but I’m not in a hurry.

Would you recommend a similar move to someone else?

Returning to academia after so many years has been a challenge — not least, the need to sort out my own administration. But the learning experience has been fantastic — I’m not entirely convinced about sitting exams, but I guess that’s all part of the journey.

What career advice would you give students who are planning to enter the job market?

Don’t be in a rush and make sure you understand what it is about your potential employer’s culture and values, which works for you.

Tell me about your LSE experience so far?

There aren’t many other 60-year olds studying at the LSE — come to mention it, there aren’t many over 40. Which surprises me. My four children never stop telling me, usually with a smirk, that nobody works in one place for 37 years anymore. So I expected all sorts of people to be back at university, pursuing mid-life career changes — if they’re at the LSE, I haven’t found many of them yet. But the knowledge and experiences of students on the African Development programme is so rich that age, somehow, seems irrelevant.